Updated: Jan 25, 2021
DISCLAIMER: This content comes from a presentation by Larry O'Nan as part of Cru's Development Institute in the late 2000s. To watch the talk in it's entirety, you can do so here
In 2004, one of Cru's Development Directors was tasked with performing personal interviews with 13 major financial partners of the ministry. Each of these partners had given over $500,000 to the ministry at the time of the interviews and was passionate about partnering with Cru to advance the Great Commission. Each of the partners gave their honest & anonymous feedback about their experience as partners of Cru and the reporting process. To read some specific implications of their feedback, read 15 Principles of Effective Reporting
Aside from that, though, here are 21 things we learned from those 13 interviews. Enjoy!
#1 - MOST TEAMS / ORGANIZATIONS ARE SUB-PAR IN THE AREA OF REPORTING
Nine of the 13 people interviewed were generally disappointed in the reports they have received from the ministry. On a grading scale, they gave the ministry a D to C- in reporting at the time of the interviews. While they feel the ministry puts efforts into reporting, the donor expectation is not being realized.
#2 - PARTNERS HAVE HIGH STANDARDS FOR REPORTING
Three of the 13 people interviewed were generally pleased by reports they have received but, at best, would give the ministry a C+ to a B- in reporting. They were positive and supportive but definitely saw areas in reporting that need definite improvement. Only one of all interviewed ranked reporting as an A, and this was with conditions.
#3 - INDIVIDUAL STAFF USUALLY REPORT BETTER THAN ORGANIZATIONS
All 13 people interviewed gave staff reporting a B+ to an A. The factors that made this positive included monthly communication, thoughtfulness of the staff, friendships, and a genuine sense of partnership.
#4 - CRU DOES AN ABOVE AVERAGE JOB OF REPORTING COMPARED TO OTHER ORGANIZATIONS
Even though the vast majority of those interviewed saw “much to be desired” in project reporting, they felt Campus Crusade was above average over other ministries that they support that also seek to provide them reports. Thus, yes, the ministry reporting efforts are better than others, but still nothing to write home about.
#5 - PARTNERS WANT TO FOLLOW GOD'S CALLING
Everyone interviewed expressed their generous commitment to the ministry because of God’s calling and sense of responsibility as stewards. Each gives out of faithfulness to the Lord; their giving is out of obedience. If their giving was based on reporting and accountability, they would have stopped giving long ago.
#6 - NOT ALL AREAS OF A MINISTRY REPORT AS WELL AS OTHERS
Reporting within the ministry varies widely. Some aspects do a fine job; others are lacking significantly. Those with poor communication and accountability get less from the donors.
#7 - YOUNGER PARTNERS ARE MORE CRITICAL OF REPORTING, WHILE OLDER PARTNERS ARE MORE TRUSTING
The age of the donor has a direct bearing on the view of reporting:
The older the donor, the more grace he/she tends to give to the ministry. The trust factor and expected outcome are more important than the process and specific results.
The younger the donor, the more objective and critical he/she is about the reporting process. The younger donor is most often very busy making money that he/she can give. Because of this hard effort, there is an expectation that the ministry will demonstrate appreciation with tangible, measurable, and specific returns.
#8 - PARTNERS ARE MOTIVATED BY A CLEAR, CONCRETE PLAN & A PROVEN TRACK RECORD
The majority of people interviewed were motivated to give because of the perceived way the ministry uses money (good ROI), scope and impact, experience in doing the right things that provide a perceived good yield, the way the ministry personally touched their spiritual life, the track record of success, the staff they know and respect, and the focused vision of “win, build and send.” These were consistent themes for motivation.
#9 - INTERNATIONAL REPORTING HAS THE MOST TO BE DESIRED
Eleven out of 13 were very disappointed with the reporting from their largest investments—typically at least $50,000 a year. One comment reflects the heart of those interviewed: “I give mostly to international because I recognize the great need, but I get the least reporting from this area. Sometimes I wonder if anything really happens because of my giving. On the other hand, I give $3,000 a year to a staff member and get 10 to 13 reports a year. My experience with the U.S. project giving is mixed—some do very well, while others almost nothing.”
#10 - PARTNERS WANT REGULAR, GENUINE UPDATES
They are disappointed and frustrated that they, as genuine partners, do not hear more about their investment in the Kingdom. One comment reflects what many said: ”If we are truly partners, as we have been told we are, then we should hear regularly from the other equal part of the partnership. We should at least get regular updates about progress, setbacks, and prayer requests so we can pray for the efforts. Perhaps progress is not being made as hoped because we are not praying. But it is difficult to pray specifically when you have nothing specific to pray for.”
#11 - MOST ORGANIZATIONS ARE REACTIVE RATHER THAN PROACTIVE IN PROVIDING REPORTS
When donors request and press for reports, a report eventually gets to the donor. Three actually commented that they questioned the reports, wondering if what they eventually received truly reflected reality. In two cases, regardless of persistent requests, reports were almost non-existent. One dear friend commented: “Frankly, I am skeptical about some of the things that have been reported to me.”
#12 - PARTNERS WANT CLEAR EXPECTATIONS ABOUT REPORTING BEFORE THEY GIVE
More than half of those interviewed commented that they responded to challenges for involvement, but there never was a defined expectation about what they could expect as far as reporting was concerned. A number of them recommend that it would be to the best interest of all that clear expectations be defined early on so the donor knows what will be coming and the ministry knows how it should be accountable.
#13 - REPORTING IS A LEAD INDICATOR OF THE SUCCESS OF YOUR MINISTRY
Our closest friends/partners want to see the ministry do better in this area. They feel more diligent attention to reporting and accountability will result in greater confidence and more funding. The reporting structure needs change for more long-term funding to flow. They see a direct parallel between effective accountability and greater financial involvement.
#14 - PARTNERS KNOW WHAT THEY WANT IN A REPORT
When asked what type of report was most helpful, the majority suggested clearly focused updates on progress. With more questioning, it was learned that a handful of subjects addressed would help:
Summary of activity since last report.
Resent realities, advances, or victories.
Barriers or setbacks.
A sense of how funding provided has been used to accomplish the objective.
Illustrations of changed lives as a result of the gift(s).
Two or three specific prayer requests.
#15 - PARTNERS DON'T CARE AS MUCH ABOUT PICTURES AS YOU THINK
Almost all commented on the need for short reports of between two pages and no more than four pages, providing a couple of good paragraphs for each subject. Occasionally pictures can be used to connect the partners with the direct ministry, but pictures are not needed all the time.
#16 - NOT EVERY PARTNER WANTS THE SAME FREQUENCY OF REPORTS
The frequency of reporting seemed to vary. Some were happy with an annual report. Others quite firmly believed a quarterly report was needed and expected—like a business investment report.
#17 - PARTNERS WANT VARIED FORMS & LENGTH OF REPORTS
The vast majority felt a mix of reporting would be ideal. This included the two-page summary on a defined timeframe, emails with short updates, occasional phone connects with the one responsible, and ideally a site visit to see firsthand.
#18 - IN-PERSON VISITS ARE VITAL TO PARTNERSHIP
One-third commented about site visits and how important they were to personal understanding, personal ministry, and personally seeing how “the rubber meets the road.”
#19 - PARTNERS WANT TO KNOW THEY CAN DEPEND ON YOU
When asked what their expectation was for reports from the ministry, a number of comments helped to paint the picture:
Can you provide detailed information on how things are going?
Are the intended goals being achieved and if so, how?
What has changed in this initiative and why?
Can you simply communicate to me?
Do you know I am here, that I gave to this cause and am in partnership with you?
Can you provide me a final income statement and summary of what was accomplished through our joint venture?
What were your goals and objectives; did our partnership result in these being met?
What impact have we had together—because of your field experience and manpower and my funds and prayers?
#20 - FAILURE TO REPORT WELL DOESN'T STOP PARTNERS FROM LOVING YOUR MINISTRY
Throughout the interviews there was a sense of deep appreciation for the ministry and a love for the cause and vision but significant disappointment because of failure to communicate. What the donors anticipate should be happening, as far as donor communication is concerned, is usually not happening; when it does, it is definitely the exception rather than the rule.
#21 - PARTNERS EXPECT YOU'LL TREAT THEIR FRIENDS LIKE YOU'VE TREATED THEM
Most of the 13 people interviewed are not excited or motivated about involving others if the others would be treated as they feel they have been treated. One donor commented, “I love the product, and I am committed to the cause, but I HATE the process.” Clearly, for the most part, we have unhappy partners—and unhappy partners do not encourage their network to get involved in what they are personally disappointed about.